Palanca Awards 2006
The Highest Hiding Place
by Lawrence L. Ypil
The Discovery of Landscape
When we saw the city,
We believed again in time.
Line of the tall spires and the bend
Of a bright sky.
We believed again in space.
Light of the large looms
and the roof of the great eye.
We believed again in perfectibility
(if not perfection), in the fresh
(if not the new).
We named it progress. The past
was not warm, so we named it dead.
We named everything we could not touch
Passed. We believed
Again in what was large.
Might of the long road and
The risk of the big wish.
When we made the step back.
Look. There. Clear measure
Of the flock on the far tip,
Of all the missed trips.
When we saw the city—
Because it was what we thought
was meant by family: Laughter.
A new house. A party in the garden
where the tables were filled with young faces.
Who did not want this true
and tender accomplishment? This just
reward handed over to the world’s honest men,
its citizens. Every house
rested on its joys. So when one of the guests
nudged a glass when she was telling a joke
which fell on the floor and broke,
we laughed. We were accountable
merely for our own mistakes and
committed solely. And everything was
part of the good story, really.
How could we not love what it cost?
Crack on the marble floor just set,
dent on a polished
kitchen door. A small window
overlooks the children, one nimble,
one frail, balancing on the far
edge of the porch.
Because the lemon tree grows tall
but bears no fruit, my father
thinks it needs more sun.
So he cuts down everything
around it: the avocado the horsetail
whose taller trunks, larger leaves
catch much of the light.
Strips the thick branches
of their leaves thinking
this will give him what he needs.
And already, we live in a place
where more sun
hits the grass,
more rain covers it.
And where prospect holds
its sharpest scythe,
it’s a blind wager
on a tree that weighs
heaviest on my father
who lifts a dull dead trunk
to the light
for his son to see.
At the Piano
Wanting to cleave clearly in the mind
the wooden chopping boards of the house
into piano keys,
and the long tables of the dining room
into some imagined concert: Do you hear it?
Yes? Do you not since then not realize
this grand scale?
The poor boy is playing a sonata
in his head, yes? Yes. Now. (Pushed
into agreement as if pushed by birth
into an empty room without choice
and flowers for wallpaper and a mirror
kept blind dark in a drawer)
There was a piano, once, in my head.
And a stage. And the world surprised
by what had been found. Difficult piece:
the left hand flying over the right
and the air-pedal stepped through and clean
to sustain. And all the world standing
behind kitchen counters and the dinner plates
waiting for the imagined overture
to complete its applause:
If only there was no need to explain.
If only the real thing was as clear
and as audible as
once the beautiful music.
Brown beaver in a stream
and the grass green
Small girl on a swing
and a bird wing
And because he thinks it’s meant to be spring,
he colors the clear edges of all living
things in his piano book--
Where the paw touches sharp the blades
of the green patch and the bare arm
of the blonde girl arcs her slender
reach to the sun. And old Brahms who lifts his hand
in a wave, even if this is meant to be
a slow waltz he’s playing, and a packed
piano concert hall he’s set in where a bright
blue blazer’s not the right suit
for this true master to wear.
This genuine thing:
Every day before the sun rose, I dreamt
the world already in color. Ivy on the old wall
greener by far than any I had seen
the lush trees bending some friends
hiding behind jars, sliding doors
snuck into the empty cabinets of the garage
wanting to be...
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